Master Miniaturists

James Edward Holroyd describes how, under the famous Duc de Berry, during a period of strife and trouble, the art of the French medieval miniaturist achieved a splendid flowering.

The patrons of many of the famous illuminated manuscripts of the later Middle Ages need no introduction. Royal personages, nobles, princes of the church, their titles are well known to the pages of history. Less secure in identity are some of the secular artists employed.

A rare name noted in an inventory or jotted down by a secretary on the final folio of some book of devotion: by such casual registrations have a number of illuminators come down the centuries in their own right.

Others, however, are known simply by the principal patron or manuscript with which they were associated, or even by the name of the atelier in which they and their shadowy colleagues perfected their minuscule art: the Bedford Master, the Rohan Master, the Cite des Dames Workshop, and the rest.

As much to establish a synthesis of styles as to try to make particular identifications, a substantial amount of patient and minute research has been undertaken by international savants during the present century. Often working on scanty documentary evidence, they have been obliged to turn increasingly to study of the manuscripts themselves.

Eminent in the field is Professor Millard Meiss, the second part of whose monumental work on French Painting in the time of Jean de Berry has been published by Phaidon Press, London, at £4 10s.

The new volume is devoted to the Boucicaut Master— so named from the Book of Hours he illuminated for Jean le Meingre II, created Marshal Boucicaut of France by Charles VI in 1391. The manuscript, now widely recognized as one of the major treasures of the early fifteenth century, is housed in the Musee Jacquemart-Andre in Paris.

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